One for the road – business travel trends for 2015

As glamourous as it might sound to most people, there is a lot more to business travel than VIP airport lounges and five star hotels. In fact, business travel exists in a range of different dimensions, from long drives and side-of-the-road motel stays to jet-setting around the world for trade shows and conferences. With such a wide scope, it is no surprise that the industry continues to boom.

A number of factors have been changing the shape of the travel industry in recent years, with some of these having a higher impact on business travel in particular. The most obvious one – the global financial crisis – is thankfully almost behind us now; but others are still impacting the industry and changing the way people meet.

The green enterprise movement has had a serious impact on travel, with many managers opting for videoconferencing meetings rather than face-to-face encounters.

Moreover, the explosion of what the industry refers to as Travel Management 2.0 – which, among other things, gives travellers the ability to book their own flights, anytime, from anywhere, using aggregating websites – has also changed the face of travel in recent years.

So where is it all going? 

Should you use a travel manager?

A lot of small businesses in particular choose to handle their own travel bookings but the increasingly complexity of the industry, a travel agent is the answer to taking a lot of the headaches away from the logistics of travel, leaving you with more time to focus on your core business.

While the internet has opened many doors to the business traveller, with website aggregators such as Expedia doing a lot of the research work while you wait, travel agents are usually faster and have access to a network of connections in the travel world that few of us can access.

Establishing an ongoing relationship with a travel agent also means that that person will get to know the particulars of your business, what your travel preferences are, and will be able to manage your bookings with all of that in mind. 

Anything, anywhere, anytime: hot trends in business travel for 2015

A number of reports are pointing to an increase in travel for business in 2015, as oil prices continue to decline.

According to the 2015 Global Travel Price Outlook report, however, both air travel and hotel prices are expected to increase around the world – with a 0.5 percent increase expected for the Asia Pacific region.

Metasearch engines like Expedia or Trivago and other “one-stop shop” travel websites will continue to attract more and more travellers who figure they can organise their trips the DIY-way. Travel Management 2.0, as it has become known and of which these websites are a big part of, is a trend that is here to stay.

Travel Management 2.0 involves giving travellers the ability to shop for travel anywhere they want and book from wherever they want. This is a major shift from the old days of having contracts with a particular travel provider.

This freedom to book whatever and whenever does not necessarily remove the need for a travel agent. Many travel agents allow travellers to book their own travels, within policy guidelines.

According to Advito’s 2015 Industry Forecast for Business Travel, air travel will grow quickly in 2015, as the global economy improves. The rise of more low-cost carriers will also contribute to an increase in air traffic and a rise in competition.

The same report shows that hotels are looking at an average rate increase of six to eight percent, while car rental companies will also see a marginal rise in rates (around two to four percent, on average). 

On the go

According to Andrew Barnard, Head of Product and Innovation for travel management specialists APX Travel Management, 2015 will bring to the business travel industry “an increased focus on duty of care”, which will see companies putting more effort into looking after their employees for the entire duration of their work trips.

With new Health and Safety legislation coming into effect on 1 April, companies will need to prove that they are providing due care to their staff at all times, including during work travel. “This is a growing field,” says Barnard, adding that, for that reason, APX Travel Management has developed its own application that allows businesses to track and get in touch with staff during their travels.

“Travel these days is about a lot more than just a printed itinerary,” he says. “Our APX Traveller Security application which we launched in 2014 is our first response to this demand for traveller tracking and risk management – it was used during the siege in Sydney to communicate to all APX travellers in the vicinity. Future iterations of this application will see increased use of GPS locational services – with some associated privacy concerns.”

According to Barnard, mobile will continue to be a “huge focus for travel-related services”. “Today’s generation of connected travellers needs to be able use their mobile device to manage their trip from planning, booking, taking the trip to filing the expense claim at the end. APX Travel Management works with a number of technology leaders to facilitate smart end-to-end solutions for our customers,” he says.

Another growing trend in business travel is the increase of what Barnard refers to as travel content disparity. “We’ve seen companies such as Expedia and booking.com get much more popular with travellers – and both of these providers are now integrated into our online booking tools for our corporate customers to utilise with their corporate booking programs.  Similarly with ground transportation – we are launching a full integration withtaxi.co.nz in our APXOnline booking tool.  This will give users the ability to book a trip end-to-end including the transfer (taxi/shuttle) to and from the airport and their destination,” he explains. 

Virtual meetings not really replacing face-to-face meetings

When Cisco first announced its Telepresence suite, many feared that the new technology was the first nail in the business travel industry’s coffin. While it is true that telepresence and videoconferencing have revolutionised business worldwide, no one at Air New Zealand (or anywhere else we can think of, for that matter) has lost their job because of that.

Videoconferencing solutions – available through a number of providers, including Cisco, Polycom or Nortel, among others – help New Zealand businesses fight the much hated “tyranny of distance” and do reduce the impact of business travel on the environment but no virtual meeting will ever be a good substitute for a proper face-to-face catch up, especially if we are talking about attendance to industry events such as conferences or trades shows.

Business remains all about networking and meeting face-to-face is a big part of building relationships. As industry remain a big source of revenue for many associations, the benefits of attending these shows will continue to make them worth the travel expense. 

Travelling for business? There’s an app for that

You are probably familiar with Uber, Zoomy and other private car hiring apps that have been taking over the market.

A new Kiwi-based taxi service has just launched in New Zealand. Blue Bubble Taxis offers passengers an order-and-pay online service through a brand new app developed by Smartpay, New Zealand’s largest eftpos supplier. The app – Blue Bubble – can be downloaded for free for both Android and iOS devices and covers the largest taxi fleet in New Zealand, including Wellington Combined, Auckland Co-op and Blue Star taxis in Christchurch.

“Using the prepay functionality users will be able to book their cab with their smartphone and then jump out at the other end knowing the payment has already been taken care of through the secure TaxiCharge payment system, ” said Bradley Gerdis, Managing Director of Smartpay, at the time the app was released. Alternatively the customers can choose not to prepay, instead paying the driver at the end of the journey as normal.

According to Lynne Hayman, Chairman of Blue Bubble Alliance, the app is more than just a booking and hail application. “It provides passengers with real choice – pay the driver as normal at the end of the journey, or preload your TaxiCharge account or Credit card details into the app for easy payment options,” she explains.

“It doesn’t matter where you are or where you travel to in New Zealand, if it’s a main centre we have a Blue Bubble taxi available. Using the app means that you no longer have to remember the name of the local cab company or their phone numbers, just click on the app and Blue Bubble will be there.

According to Hayman, the app comes with the built-in safety that using a bona fide taxi service in New Zealand provides; in-car security cameras, and fully monitored GPS tracking. Preloading payments can also make it easier to claim money back from the business during your work trips.

 

 

By Vera Alves

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